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Gay History – October 23rd: The Almost Forgotten Gay Activist Harry Hay and Quebec’s Gay Club Raid Protests

 

harry-hay

October 23rd.

1766: Christoffel Bosch van Leeuwarden, a seventy year old porter in the Netherlands, was convicted of seduction to sodomy and sentenced to three years of prison labor.

1977: Two thousand people demonstrated in downtown Montreal to protest October 22 bar raids. Police attack the demonstrators with motorcycles and billy-clubs and made further arrests.

Truxx and another bar, Le Mystique, were simultaneously raided on Oct. 22, 1977. Fifty police officers wearing bulletproof vests and carrying machine guns conducted the raid, charging 146 patrons as “found-ins” and Truxx’s owner as a keeper of a common bawdy house. Detainees were held for eight hours in crowded cells, subjected to venereal disease testing and denied the opportunity to call their lawyers.

Community response to the raid was quick. The night after the raid, two thousand people blocked a downtown intersection in protest. When police tried to break it up by driving their motorcycles into the crowd and clubbing people, protesters threw beer bottles. Hundreds turned up at a public forum, organized by l’Association pour les droits des gaies du Québec, and a defence committee for the found-ins was formed.

It took five years for the charges against the Truxx patrons to be dropped.

1979: Former Winnipeg Free Press publisher Richard Malone pleads guilty to charges of buggery and obstructing justice. He is given a one-year sentence, following a “juvenile sex ring” investigation in February 1979.

1993: In Helena Montana the state supreme court ruled that “transvestitism” is not a sufficient reason to deny a father joint custody of his 3-year old child.

1998: The Los Angeles City council condemns the “Making Sense of Homosexuality” conference, organized by the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, otherwise known as NARTH saying that claims of “curing” homosexuals creates an atmosphere that can lead to anti-gay violence.

1999:  Religious right leader Rev. Jerry Falwell and evangelical Christian supporters met with Rev. Mel White and gay Christians for an anti-violence forum.  Shockingly, it did not stop the violence.

2002:  Pioneering gay rights activist Harry Hay (photo above)  dies of lung cancer in hospice care.

A  founder and architect of the modern gay rights movement in 1950. Hay and four others formed one of the nation’s first gay rights organizations, the Mattachine Society. Hay’s believed in the cultural minority status of homosexuals which led him to take a stand against assimilation.

In June 1969, the Stonewall riots in New York marked a move toward a more radical and militant approach among gay rights activists; Hay however stated that “I wasn’t impressed by Stonewall, because of all the open gay projects we had done throughout the sixties in Los Angeles. As far as we were concerned, Stonewall meant that the East Coast was catching up.” The riot led to the emergence of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), with Hay involving  himself in the early development of its Los Angeles chapter.  In December 1969. Hay was elected its first chairperson, organizing pickets of homophobic establishments, holding a one-day “Gay-In” in Griffith Park and “funky dances” at Troupers Hall to challenge the legal restrictions on same-sex dancing

“We pulled ugly green frog skin of heterosexual conformity over us, and that’s how we got through school with a full set of teeth,” Hay once explained. “We know how to live through their eyes. We can always play their games, but are we denying ourselves by doing this? If you’re going to carry the skin of conformity over you, you are going to suppress the beautiful prince or princess within you.”

Hay would later go onto help create the Radical Faeries whose first conference was held on Labor Day 1979. The term “Radical” was chosen to reflect both political extremity and the idea of “root” or “essence”, while the term “Faerie” was chosen in reference both to the immortal animistic spirits of European folklore and to the fact that “fairy” had become a pejorative slang term for gay men.

In the 1980s, Hay involved himself in an array of activist causes, campaigning against South African apartheid, Nicaragua’s Contras, and the death penalty while also joining the nuclear disarmament and pro-choice movements and becoming a vocal critic of the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush.

Hay came to be viewed as an elder statesman within the gay community, and was regularly invited to give speeches to LGBT activist and student groups. He was the featured speaker at the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade in 1982, and Grand Marshal of the Long Beach Gay Pride Parade in 1986. In 1989, West Hollywood city council awarded him an honor for his years of activism while that year he was invited to give a lecture at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, which he turned down.

Bit in 1983 Hay courted controversy. 

He remained highly critical of the mainstream gay rights movement and joined several other early gay rights activists in protesting the exclusion of the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) from participation in on the grounds that such exclusions pandered to heterosexual-dominated society.  NAMBLA had marched in the previous Pride parades. But morality was changing.  In a New York University forum, he remarked “If the parents and friends of gays are truly friends of gays, they would know from their gay kids that the relationship with an older man is precisely what thirteen-, fourteen-, and fifteen-year-old kids need more than anything else in the world”, highlighting his own relationship with an adult man when he was .  At the 1986 Los Angeles Gay Pride Parade he courted controversy by carrying a banner with “NAMBLA Walks With Me” written on it, after organizers banned the group from joining the march and organizers complained to police and Hay narrowly avoided arrest.  These events overshadowed Hay’s previous legacy so much that today he is all but forgotten and purposely left out of many LGBT historical writings.

Hay refused to participate in the official Heritage of Pride 1994 Pride Parade in New York City commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots because of its exclusionary policies. Instead he joined an alternate parade called “The Spirit of Stonewall”.  As late as 2000 Hay continued to speak out against assimilation, saying, “The assimilationist movement is running us into the ground.”

Harry Hay passed away on October 24, 2002 at age 90. His ashes, mingled with those of his partner John Burnside, were scattered in the Nomenus Faerie Sanctuary, Wolf Creek, Oregon

 

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Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, writer, blogger and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Advocate, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, Raw Story, and The Huffington Post

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